Foote Cone & Belding in Hong Kong

York Lo: Foote Cone & Belding in Hong Kong

Earlier on the website we covered the history of the local ad agency Thompson Wong which became Bozell and ultimately absorbed into Foote Cone & Belding (FCB) in 1999. FCB started operating in Hong Kong through its partnership with John Roddy in the late 1970s and FCB itself traced its roots to Lord & Thomas, the third oldest ad agency in America which was founded in Chicago in 1873. Lord & Thomas was acquired in 1912 by Albert Lasker (1880-1952), who was known as the father of modern advertising who revolutionized the business with radio commercials and campaigns for major brands such as Sunkist, Palmolive, Pepsodent and Lucky Strike cigarettes. In 1942, Lasker sold Lord & Thomas to three of its top executives – Emerson Foote in New York, Fairfax Cone in Chicago and Don Belding in California and as a result the firm was renamed Foote, Cone & Belding. FCB went public in 1963 and embarked on international expansion into Europe in 1960s and Asia in the 1970s. By the time it entered the HK market in 1978, FCB was one of the top 10 ad agencies in the world with US$569 million in sales and 26 subsidiaries in 14 countries across the globe.

John Roddy-FCB (真雅廣告)

Foote Cone & Belding Image 1 York Lo

Article about John Roddy becoming an affiliate of FCB with John Roddy (left) signing the agreement with FCB executive vice president in 1978 (KSDN, 1978-6-22)

FCB entered the Hong Kong market in July 1978 through the acquisition of 40% of John Roddy Advertising Ltd, a local ad agency with HK$14 million in billing and 20 staff members which was incorporated in March 1977 by Australian native John Roddy (張諾棣), a veteran of the HK advertising industry and chairman of 4A. At its founding, the firm already became one of the top ten ad agencies in Hong Kong thanks to its connection to FCB and its handling of the accounts of Lorillard Asia. (TKP, 1977-3-8) As a result of FCB buying 40%, the firm was renamed John Roddy FCB Advertising Ltd. Another important early client for John Roddy FCB was Brown & Williamson, the manufacturer of the famous Kent brand of cigarettes. (KSEN, 1979-6-26)

One of the founding staff of the firm wasKwong Cheuk-wah (鄺焯華) and he was promoted to head of media buying in October 1979. Another early Chinese executive was Mak Chi-ling (麥子凌) who was promoted to head of client relations in January 1982.

Foote Cone & Belding Image 2 York Lo

Articles about the appointments of two early Chinese executives of John Roddy FCB – Kwong Cheuk-wah on the left (WKYP, 1979-10-16) and Mak Chi-ling on the right (WKYP, 1982-1-6) 

Foote Cone & Belding Image 3 York Lo

Article about John Roddy FCB winning the TI business with picture with John Roddy FCB managing director (left), TI Asia marketing manager (center) and FCB executive handling the TI account. (WKYP, 1980-5-23)

In May 1980, Texas Instruments Asia appointed John Roddy FCB as its ad agency for Asia Pacific to promote its calculators, computers and semiconductor products. (WKYP, 1980-5-23)

In May 1982, John Roddy-FCB appointed Ann Winchester as its new creative director. She was previously with Ogilvy and FCB in London and previously served as creative director of Leo Burnett in Kuala Lumpur. (WKYP, 1982-5-11)

Foote Cone Belding (富雄霸)

In 1983, “John Roddy” was dropped from the name of FCB’s HK operations which was managed by Brian Tucker. In August 1983, FCB HK added several Chinese staff including Tang Chu as senior copywriter who joined from Ted Bates where he handled the HSBC and Crocodile Shirts accounts and also hired a new head of market research who previously worked for Canale 5 in Italy. (WKYP, 1983-8-25)

In May 1984, FCB announced the signing of the electronics chain Fortress as a client, the fifth new client it took on that year after winning Siber Hegner & Co (distributor of Lindt chocolate, Ricola mint, Ungaro leather goods), SHK Bank, Watsons and Computer Plaza as clients with $12 million of new billings and trailing 13 month business of $40 million. (WKYP, 1984-5-4)

In August 1986, FCB appointed Louisa Kwan (關黃玉娜) as creative director. At the time, the firm counted Ricola (利口樂), Sunkist OJ, Kowloon Dairy, restaurant chain YHY (雅香園) and Crystal Spring Tea(碧泉檸檬茶) as clients. (WKYP, 1986-8-8)

In September 1986, FCB won the Far East advertising business of British Caledonian airlines, including the promotional campaign for the airline’s first flight between Gatwick and Tokyo in April 1987. The advertising budget for British Caledonian in the region was GBP3.5 million and FCB was also handling its advertising in Europe, Africa and the Middle East but not the UK and the US. (WKYP, 1986-9-25)

In March 1987, FCB won the Watsons distilled water account, which in addition to other new accounts such as Jardines, Glaxo and Data General brought in new billings of over HK$12 million (WKYP, 1987-3-5)

In August 1987, FCB transferred Jeff Shubert, the head of its Japan operations to HK to become the new head of FCB HK which was the ninth largest ad agency in HK at the time. Prior to working for FCB in Asia, Shubert worked on the Clorox account at FCB’s San Francisco office and worked for Ketchum and FCB affiliate Lewis, Gilman & Kynett. (WKYP, 1987-8-28)

In January 1988, FCB hired Manfred Knuth from Ogilvy & Mathers as creative director.(WKYP, 1988-1-6)

In March 1988, FCB won the Hirudoid cream account which was formerly handled by Ogilvy and appointed Lam Yuk-yin (林育賢) as senior client relations director. (WKYP, 1988-3-25)

In June 1988, FCB was awarded the business to promote 7-11 by Jardines (TKP, 1988-6-18)

In August 1988, FCB HK formed Nat Alan FCB Direct Ltd with two direct marketing executives Nat Chan and Alan Luna to target the direct marketing business in HK. (WKYP, 1988-8-4) The joint venture did not last and was dissolved in 1991.

In 1988, FCB HK recorded revenues of HK$110 million. The firm had over 60 staff and counted Watson distilled water, Colgate-Palmolive, 7-Eleven and Australian Gold as clients. The same year, FCB merged with Publicis, then seventh largest communications group in Europe and the two groups’ combined revenues in 1989 exceeded US$4 billion, making it the sixth largest advertising group in the world.

In April 1989, FCB appointed who has been with the firm for six years as managing director and chief creative officer. (WKYP, 1989-5-26)

In June 1989, FCB won the business of DSG (瑞德紙品), the local maker of Fitti and Pet Pet brand of diapers. (WKYP, 1989-6-4)

In September 1989, FCB won the business of SC Johnson in HK thanks to the American cleaning products giant’s decision to consolidate its global advertising contract with one firm. (WKYP, 1989-9-12)

Foote Cone & Belding Image 4 York Lo

Article about FCB HK winning the business of Thorn Rental in 1990 with picture of Louisa Kwan signing contract with executive of Thorn Rental (WKYP, 1990-3-18)

In March 1990, FCB HK beat two other leading ad agencies and won the contract forThorn Rental (科藝租用服務), the leading audio video rental company at the time. The advertising budget for Thorn HK that year was over HK$8 million.

In June 1990, FCB beat Leo Burnett and others and won the Cadbury chocolate account which was worth over $10 million. Other wins in the trailing 12 months included Embry Form, Marathon Sports with expected revenue for the year exceeding $110 million, a growth of 40% from the prior year. (WKYP, 1990-6-7)

In September 1994, Ben Barnes, the CEO of Grey Advertising HK joined FCB as regional president and CEO of FCB Asia Pacific based in Hong Kong. He was with Grey HK for the previous 13 years with the last 8 as CEO. At the time, FCB was the seventh largest advertising firm worldwide and largest in the US and eighth in the Asia Pacific region. (SCMP, 1994-9-21)

This article was first posted on 27th September 2021.

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